From Breathworks Founder Vidyamala Burch

I am excited to be letting you know about a new course I’ve written that has just been released through the app Insight Timer. It runs over 10 days and includes a short talk and meditation on different themes each day.

It summarises all the main approaches I’ve developed to help you free your mind, even if your body is hurting.

The methods are all similar to those developed in my well-researched and effective ‘Mindfulness for Health’ book and course. But the content is now very easily accessible via an intuitive and user-friendly app.

My hope is that many people will do this new course as an introduction and taster to mindfulness and compassion for pain and illness, and then go on to deepen their practice using the Breathworks in-depth mindfulness courses offered via book, online, face-to-face classes and retreats. That way people who live with pain and illness can go on a journey of ever-increasing depth and breadth finding many jewels along the way.

My motivation for creating these various ways into mindfulness and compassion is very simple. I spent many years in a lonely wilderness after I injured my spine in 1976 and I didn’t know where to turn to for help and support. Back then meditation was still very much a fringe activity and it certainly wasn’t taken seriously in healthcare. Slowly and painstakingly I have forged my own path through the wilderness based on a deep intuition that my own mind could be a great aid in learning to manage my situation. I sought meditation instruction and gradually figured out how to meditate with a painful body so that I have now have a very good quality of life, despite my disability and pain.

I feel I have something to offer from these lessons in the wilderness and I am deeply motivated to make it easier for others. I don’t want it to be so lonely for anyone else. It’s remarkable the way meditation and mindfulness have become increasingly mainstream over the past decade or so and I am very happy that others learning to come to terms with chronic health problems can now be-friend their minds early on in their journey and hopefully have a much easier time of it than I did.

So, you see, my motivation to reach out to you is simple. I just want to help. And I hope that somewhere in amongst this pathway of resources you will find many things that help you get your life back on track so you can indeed live well, even if your body is damaged or hurting. 

Details about the new Insight Timer course Methods for Living With Pain and Illness

10 day course available through the Insight Timer app.

£4.99 offers unlimited access to complete the course. Access expires 48 hours after you start day 10.

£19.99 means you own the course forever and can complete it as often as you like.

Learn all the key skills I’ve developed to cultivate mindfulness and compassion so you can live well, even if you live with pain and illness.

Day 1 – Vidyamala’s story – using mindfulness to manage severe spinal pain.

In this session you will hear my story and how I’ve used mindfulness to learn to live well with life-changing spinal injuries that I sustained in my teens. I share the major insights gained over more than three decades of mindfulness practice and the central role of breath awareness as a way to ease pain and release tension. I include the helpful slogan “when in doubt, breathe out!” as a rule for living. This session also includes a guided Breathing Anchor meditation.

Day 2 – Letting go of the struggle – resistance is futile.

In this session you will learn how to use awareness to divide pain, or whatever symptom or difficulty we are experiencing, into two components:

Primary Suffering – the unpleasant feelings in the body
Secondary Suffering – the extra suffering that arises from resistance and reactivity.
You’ll learn how to accept the primary suffering; to soften resistance; and reduce secondary suffering, thus reducing the overall burden of suffering. This session also includes a guided Body Scan meditation.

Day 3 – get a handle on your thoughts – from monkey mind to elephant mind

In this session you will learn how to manage your thoughts and emotions about your pain or illness. Many of us feel our minds are out of control, like a monkey leaping about a tree, which adds to our torment and distress. Mindfulness can help us radically change our relationship to our minds and develop perspective and calm. We can develop a mind like an elephant – stable, dignified and steady. We’ll practice a Breathing Anchor meditation to develop this skill.

Day 4 – mindful movement – moving with your breath

In this session you will practice some very gentle mindful movements to help get an experience of moving with a soft breath and with balanced, appropriate effort. This will help you experience a more gentle way of moving so you can then take that attitude into the various movements of everyday life. Instructions are given on how to adapt this session if your physical ability to move is limited in any way, making the session appropriate for all.

Day 5 – from resistance to acceptance – being kind to yourself

In this session you will learn how to come into a more caring relationship with yourself – to respond to your own difficulty the way you would naturally respond to a loved one who was hurting. Many of us oscillate between denying our experience on the one hand, or being overwhelmed by it on the other. With mindfulness we can find a middle way of deeper acceptance and kindness. This session includes a Compassionate Acceptance meditation to help cultivate this.

Day 6 – the treasure of pleasure – noticing pleasure and beauty

In this session you will learn how to appreciate and enjoy pleasant experience that is always present, waiting to be noticed, alongside pain and difficulty. Mindfulness opens us to everything more deeply: accepting difficulty as you did in Day 5, and in this session becoming more sensitive to simple pleasures such as the light shining through the window, warm hands etc.  This session includes a Treasure of Pleasure meditation to help cultivate this skill.

Day 7 – go with the flow – opening to the changing nature of life

In this session you will learn how to cultivate a stable and open awareness as you reflect on the nature of life. You will see how everything is more fluid than we normally realise – including the experience of pain or illness. You will learn how to rest within this sense of flow with calm and depth, rather than pushing away painful experiences and clinging onto pleasant ones which is our more normal, unsatisfactory, mode of living. This session includes an Open Heart meditation.

Day 8 – you are not alone – from isolation to empathy

In this session you will learn how to use the self-awareness cultivated so far on the course as an opportunity to feel empathy with others. By getting to know ourselves more deeply, by inference we get to know humanity. Pain and illness can be isolating and we can feel very alone and separate. But using reflection we can profoundly shift our perspective and imaginatively connect with others on the basis of commonality rather than difference. This session includes the Connection meditation.

Day 9 – Daily life practice – take a break before you break!

In this session you will learn how to take your mindfulness practice into daily life.  If you are to live well with your pain or illness it is essential to maintain mindfulness as often as possible throughout the day, not just when you are meditating. You’ll do this by learning to find the middle way between ‘Booming’ and ‘Busting’, and achieve more harmony and ease in the midst of normal activities. This session includes the Three Step Breathing Space meditation.

Day 10 – Welcome to the rest of your life – become a warrior with a soft heart.

In this session I summarise all the key points from the previous nine days to embed the learning of the course. It has been a systematic and thorough programme providing mindfulness and compassion skills for anyone living with pain and/or illness. This session ends with the tantalizing image of becoming a warrior with a soft heart – embodying boldness and courage as well as tenderness and compassion. This session ends with a Compassionate Body Scan meditation.